Note this post originally appeared on my Thought Distillery site in October of 2020.

At the time, my husband, Adam, and I were considering a move to another part of the state of CO (or buying property in the Pikes Peak region where we lived) and existing search tools didn’t suffice at all, so I pieced together my own. (We ended up buying a home in Buena Vista in February of 2021.)

I envision a new paradigm for the house buying, business relocating process that is powered by easy, consumable access to much broader data than number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and acreage. (Please drop me a line if you know of an existing solution to what I’m exploring below.  The closest thing I’ve come across to what I envision is Teleport, but I’m looking for something much more localized).

I picture a passions and values-driven approach to home buying with needs of remote workers and business owners at the center.

There are a number of pain points with existing search solutions, which are at best incomplete. With internet speed being a primary example of why this is difficult, broadband coverage maps are inaccurate, sometimes with gross overestimation of coverage, especially as it relates to rural areas, but even in underserved (or unserved) urban communities, too. A census block is considered served if at least ONE home or business has broadband access and oftentimes, this is based on data self-reported by internet service providers (ISPs). Having looked at hundreds of listings across multiple apps over the last several months, very few times have I even seen mention of “high-speed internet.” And high-speed can mean as little as 25 MBPS. The Pew article, “How States Are Expanding Broadband Access” provides a great overview of the challenges in this space if you’re interested in learning more.

I’ve heard stories and read accounts of people building or buying homes in areas that they believed to be served based on phone calls to neighbors, ISPs, etc., only to find out after the fact they’d have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to run fiber lines to their property or battle it out over months. (See the last mile.)

So, for this reason, and the other pieces of information that are important in this decision making process that are absent from existing solutions, I’m building a Frankenstein-like series of connectors in different tools and sharing that on this blog. I think there are the beginnings of a product here somewhere. 🙂

If you’re new to this blog, you don’t yet know that I share much of what I do freely. It helps readers and potential clients understand my process and hopefully saves someone time in their own research if they’re solving similar problems. I’m also a huge fan of author and artist, Austin Kleon’s concept of #showyourwork.

I started with a digital sketch several months ago when we first started to entertain the idea…

dream house doodle

Then I started to build out a couple of sheets in Airtable (shared below) and to chase data sets…(Please note these artifacts are still works in progress.)

While we’ve been fortunate to not be directly impacted by wildfires in the five years we’ve lived in Colorado, as we consider investing in a home and moving our businesses to another part of the state, we must stay informed of historical wildfire trends and how to create defensible spaces. 2020 brought the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history, so it’s not something to take lightly. And on the natural catastrophes front, Realtor does, at least, provide a FEMA flood risk score, which is useful because trying to navigate FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center is no small task.

We’re also taking into account my long-term vision for an idea I’ve been incubating for more than two years, Like Hearts Lab. LHL will require significant acreage as a starting point. And because I have a particularly unique operating model and organizational design in mind, we also have some unique needs as it relates to the location of that acreage.

I also explored a trial version of Tableau to try to layer maps on top of each other to find the common points of intersection to help narrow it down.

tableau screen shot

Additional Tools/Resources/Data Sets Mentioned and Utilized in this Work:

More on Broadband

In Part Two of this exploration, I dig more into broadband availability and identifying properties with that in mind. Check out my other post, Remote Employee Relocation: Finding Where to Live Based on High-Speed Internet Access.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash